Relentlessly suspenseful and disturbingly timely, Bounty summons a chilling vision of our Internet culture gone mad, where freedom, privacy, and the rule of law are demolished by a crisis of nightmare proportions—and the future of justice lies in the hands not of the bravest but the most brutal.
When a notorious Wall Street vulture is executed in his high-rise office by a sniper’s bullet, it’s the kill shot heard around the world. Welcome to Bounty4Justice.com, a rogue website for vigilante assassins, where outraged citizens bid up bounties on corporate crooks and corrupt elites. As the number of targets soars, amateur bounty hunters and professional hit men compete to exterminate the condemned, “proof-of-death” videos become Internet sensations, and the self-styled Robin Hood pulling the strings threatens to plunge the international community into anarchy.
Along with other law enforcement agencies across the globe, the FBI and its agents on the case—led by Roman Novak and Rosemary Michaels—are desperately seeking a way to outmaneuver and overpower an all-but-invisible adversary with millions of dollars at its disposal and the ability to cripple the most sophisticated attackers with a keystroke. Following a black-hat hacker extraordinaire down a rabbit hole of firewalls, encryption, and unbreakable codes leads Novak and Michaels into the virtual underworld of the darknet—a seemingly impenetrable haven for the illicit and illegal where Bounty4Justice’s mastermind is almost certainly hiding. But just when the agents think they are close to breaching their quarry’s digital fortress, they find themselves stalked by an army of cyber outlaws out for blood.
Advance praise for Bounty
“[Michael] Byrnes fuses science fiction and espionage in this smart, near-futuristic dystopic thriller. . . . The action-packed story line is full of plot twists and explores such topical matters as cyberterrorism and hacktivism. Byrnes raises some serious questions about humankind’s increasing dependence on—and assimilation with—the digital world.”—Publishers Weekly
“Vigilantism goes viral in this thriller about a website that pays bounties for the killing of unpunished child abusers, financial scammers, human rights violators, and other bad actors. . . . Charles Bronson’s Death Wish meets the Internet.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This is a grand-scale spin on the vigilante story. . . . Byrnes’s vigilante offers a twist on the theme: he’s mastered cyberspace to the point where he can outsource some of his to-do list, offering a cash reward on his website to anyone who will kill the crooked banker . . . and the weasel who bilked Medicare for $127 million. And he’s just getting started.”—Booklist
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||9.30(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Michael Byrnes is the author of the international bestseller The Sacred Bones, which has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Florida with his wife and three children.
Read an Excerpt
“So it’s done?”
“You’ll need to sign some release forms.” Scott Waverly folded his laptop shut and glanced up at the banker. “Otherwise, yeah, it’s done. Just be sure to pay the fines by the end of the month.”
Chase Lombardi waved his hand. “I’ll have accounting cut a check today and be rid of it.”
“I’m sure the district attorney would welcome that.”
Lombardi grinned. “You’re good. Expensive. But damn sharp.” He raised a tumbler of whiskey and drained the glass.
“My courier will deliver the paperwork to your house in the morning. Eight o’clock work for you?” Waverly slid the laptop into a slim, fashionable safe case that was otherwise empty.
“I plan on celebrating. Best give me time to recover. Make it eleven. Why don’t you join me tonight? Let me buy you a rib eye and some obscenely overpriced scotch.”
“Sounds enticing, but I’ve got a prior engagement.”
A lie, Lombardi was sure. Delivered with surgical precision. “So skip it.”
Waverly’s reply was nonnegotiable: “Not happening.”
The attorney had dropped that same line when offered a generous plea bargain by the district attorney—a gutsy, ultimately brilliant play. Lombardi watched the man’s elegant fingers work the dials on the case’s combination lock. “I thought your computer’s encrypted?”
“Then what’s with the luggage?”
“If there’s anything I’ve learned from my clients,” Waverly said with a tilted eyebrow, “it’s that one can’t be too vigilant about protecting personal information.”
The words had teeth, but Lombardi chuckled anyway. “Buyer beware.”
“Indeed.” The attorney stood and proffered a stiff right hand.
Lombardi clasped Waverly’s chalky palm and squeezed hard enough to make him wince.
“Congratulations,” Waverly said. “Thanks to you, the Justice Department and the SEC will be scrambling to patch quite a few regulatory potholes. You’ve defied the odds.”
“I played the odds,” Lombardi corrected. He leaned across the desk and whispered, “Not my fault the system’s hopelessly flawed.”
“Try to stay out of trouble . . .” A quick, nearly imperceptible smile. “Or not.”
“No doubt you’d prefer the latter,” Lombardi said.
“Enjoy the rib eye.” Maintaining a death grip on his safe case, Waverly executed a crisp about-face and strode out.
Lombardi watched the mahogany door whisper shut, then stood and went over to the floor-to-ceiling window. Peering down sixteen stories, he fixated on the drones in crisp suits teeming along the sidewalk in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
Suckers. Gaggles of them.
Watch out, baby. I’m back in the game. I’ll be seeing you soon.
Feeling a subtle vibration in his suit pocket, he pulled out his iPhone and viewed the display. His neck muscles instantly went rigid.
He took his seat again and speed-dialed his IT manager. Through the speakerphone, a subdued female voice answered after two chimes. “Vickie, I thought you fixed my accounts to block out those fucking emails and texts?”
“You mean that bounty guy?”
“That’s the one.”
“I did, sir.”
“Then explain to me why I just got another message from this whack job?”
“I . . .” The voice wavered. “Let me check.”
Some speedy keyboard pecking on the other end.
“I’m waiting, Vickie.”
“Uh . . . right. Got the confirmation right here. It was done Thursday morning. We’d blocked the—”
“Then can you tell me what I’m staring at right now? Big bold letters . . . lots of numbers after a dollar sign. Same as last time.”
“I’ll need to look into it, find out what the problem might be. Was it the same Web link again?” she asked.
“Same one. I remember telling you to look into that, too.”
“Honestly, I figured it might upset you,” said Vickie. “With all the court appearances you had to get through last week and—”
“I’m a big boy. I can handle it.”
“Sir, honestly, I’d suggest you take a look at it yourself,” she said. “I still haven’t been able to identify the sender’s IP address, but there’s no malicious code coming through the firewall. So it should be fine to log on from your office.”
“Good. I’ll do that. In the meantime, weed this shit out of my accounts.”
Lombardi stabbed his finger at the phone’s keypad, then brought up the Web browser and pressed his face close to the monitor.
Show me what you’ve got, funny man.
His eyes were immediately drawn to a pair of wildly spinning counter graphics in the upper left of the screen. The first, labeled unique visitors, was rapidly approaching the two million mark. Beneath it, the one labeled bounty had just breached $530,000.
“Bounty,” he mumbled.
At the top of the page, a no-nonsense banner logo repeated the site’s name in bold scarlet letters designed to resemble an ink stamp, with a slogan beneath it that read, if the law should fail, let justice prevail. Directly beneath it, the words featured mark were the header for his own portrait—a presidential-style photo that screamed fifty-something power broker, lifted right off Lombardi Capital Management LLP’s most recent annual report.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
His iPhone trilled again. He snatched it up and checked the message from the unspecified sender:
LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW
A chill trickled down his back. He remained perfectly still, heart galloping behind his breastbone. After counting to ten, he slowly swiveled the chair toward the glass, palming the phone. His eyes scanned high and low through the vast concrete-and-glass terrain for anything ominous. All seemed normal.
Jesus Christ. Get ahold of yourself.
The iPhone came to life again, sucking away any sense of relief.
He raised the phone slowly. The one word staring back at him made his hand tremble.
Panic took hold, his eyes snapping back to the scene outside the window, hunting, scanning. Now that his most passionate enemies were quantifiable, compliments of this elusive bounty man, the surrounding windows and rooftops seemed infinite.
The visitors’ tally scrolled through his mind’s eye. Two million and counting was Chase Lombardi’s final thought just before a dime-sized hole punched clean through the thick plate glass with a muffled thwap. A nanosecond later, an invisible sledgehammer slammed between his eyes and cast him into oblivion.
NYC Scanner @NYScanner • 2h
Lower Manhattan: Nassau St & Wall St crime scene established in regards to male shot once in the head, EMS rushing to the scene.
FBI Special Agent Roman Novak breathed in deep and long, then exhaled slow and steady as he prepared to enter the rip current of activity awaiting him. The elevator doors hummed open at the sixteenth floor, and a flood of frenzied sound overwhelmed the cheery contemporary jazz pumping in from speakers hidden overhead. He stepped out into a spacious reception hall and paused.
Clusters of NYPD officers stood in loose circles, chatting about the Giants’ dismal first half in yesterday’s game. No murder, even a high-profile one, could trump that.
The forensics crews were all business: techs in white jumpsuits and hairnets streaming back and forth along the office’s central corridor, which ran like a wide avenue behind the circular glass-and-chrome reception desk. They were busily unloading their high-tech gear, eager as always to start deconstructing the crime scene while the evidence was fresh.
“Agent Novak!” A gravelly voice broke through the din.
He spotted the lanky, bald captain in a double doorway at the far end of the corridor. James Agner, NYPD’s alpha male. Novak raised a hand in acknowledgment, and Agner disappeared through the doorway.
Threading past the cops, Novak set off down the corridor, which was lined on both sides by glass partitions that allowed full view of the stylishly furnished offices his squad had raided nearly a year ago. After the tedious months that had ensued, the FBI had learned the hard way that here at Lombardi Capital Management LLP, transparency was limited strictly to the decor.
He strode past a glass-walled, fish-tank-like meeting room and peered in at a pair of city detectives vetting some staffers who collectively looked like the cast of a daytime soap opera. At the opposite end of the room stood Novak’s boss, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Timothy Knight, doling out directives to five agents who were listening intently from their seats at the conference table.
Knight failed to notice him, so Novak kept walking.
The walls transitioned back to mahogany just before the corridor ended. He proceeded into a voluminous room with a two-story ceiling and so much glass along its outer wall that the space seemed to hover above the city. Chase Lombardi’s inner sanctum, his window on the world.
“Excuse me,” a voice called from behind him.
Novak turned to face a tech trying to make her way into the room with a telescope in the crook of her left arm and a laptop hooked under her right. “Sorry,” he said, sidestepping.
Agner called to him from across the room: “Agent Novak, come have a look at this.”
Circling the desk to where Agner stood with his arms crossed tight, gazing at the main attraction, Novak caught an unpleasant whiff of urine and copper and fried circuit boards.
Chase Lombardi’s plump body was slumped in a leather swivel chair, dressed in what had to be a ten-thousand-dollar pin-striped suit, the crotch stained. The banker’s head—at least what remained of it—had snapped back over the headrest, his knobby chin pointing up at the ceiling. The bulbous nose and beady eyes were now reduced to a ragged, pulpy crater. Reflecting on what a devious prick the guy had been, Novak couldn’t quite repress a small surge of satisfaction. One bullet had accomplished more than a year and a half of federal investigation.
Agner’s eyes locked on the dead man’s impeccably polished wingtips. “Those shoes probably cost more than my car. Christ. How ya been, Novak?”
“Not bad. You?”
“Just started the paperwork for retirement,” Agner said, attempting optimism. The prospect of being set to pasture, however, resonated like a grim prognosis.
“Good for you. You’ve earned it.”
The captain shrugged. “I suppose my golf game could use some attention.” His gaze circled the room, taking snapshots of the moment. “I got a strong stomach, but this one’s a sloppy mess. Guy’s unrecognizable.”